Bay Area novelist Ayelet Waldman began with a simple desire: to help the helpers.
On March 19, she set out to deliver some meals to local hospitals from nearby restaurants that were struggling to find business after a statewide shelter-in-place order was announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two weeks later, the project has turned into a full-blown campaign called East Bay FeedER with 40 volunteers and more than $200,000 raised. The group is currently providing meals twice a day to five East Bay hospitals.
Waldman said she's thinking about what television personality Fred Rogers' mother said to him about looking for the people who are assisting others during times of distress.
“That's what makes me feel better,” Waldman said. “To be able to help the helpers. That is what sustains me through this."
Shortly after the shelter-in-place order, Waldman received an email from her friend Tanya Holland, owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland. Holland was asking customers to do takeout to support the restaurant. Waldman immediately ordered. At the same time, a friend and ER doctor called Waldman to tell her someone had dropped off a meal for him.
“It was the first time that he'd eaten not out of a [vending] machine in ages,” Waldman said. She realized she could do something — so she called Brown Sugar Kitchen back and asked for 25 meals and then delivered them to Highland Hospital in Oakland.
“The nurse I first spoke to got all teary, and I got all teary, and I dropped off the food,” Waldman said about her first delivery. She thought she could afford to do this once a week, so she went on Twitter — tagging her husband, author Michael Chabon — to see which restaurants would want to help.